Today I did some reorganizing and had a chain of really long USB cables to use, so I plugged one end into the back of the Xbox 360 and then wrapped the cable along the baseboards, ending nestled into couch. Woop! Now I have a USB port for the Xbox 360 right there. My inner dork rejoices!
Sometimes an album doesn’t have album art, or the album art hasn’t been loaded yet. Previous version of Windows Media Player would solve this problem by displaying the album as a glossy blue tile overplayed with the album title in white text. With a lot of albums without cover art (or before the album art has been loaded) this look didn’t meet Media Center’s premium visual standards. The solution:
I have invested a lot of time and storage space ripping whole DVDs to my computer. This worked out great, because there is a hidden feature in Windows Vista Media Center for viewing DVDs that have been ripped to hard drives. This worked pretty well, but reveling the menu required changing a value in the registry, and the feature wasn’t very polished, which is likely why it was hidden in the first place. Things have changed in the Windows 7 Beta.
Over the past few months I have really gotten into ripping DVDs to my computer in full quality (without re-compressing the video), so that I could play them in Media Center just as though I had put in the physical disk. (I learned how to do that from a blog post on a Microsoft student site.) Since each disk contains about 7.2GB of data, this did require getting a little more hard drive space. Since I started I have ripped about 250 DVDs, but I had only taken the time to manually get the cover art for the first few that I ripped. Getting coverart for the DVDs to show up in Media Center required going to Amazon.com, searching for the DVD, clicking through to the large picture of the box cover, saving that image, cropping it, and moving it to the DVD folder and naming it “folder.jpg”. That was more mindless work than I wanted to put up with, so I did a little research.
Tivo? Don’t make my laugh! If you have a Windows Vista computer, chances are that you can get a more premium experience, with even more features, for less money. Windows Media Center comes with Windows Vista Home Premium, and of course Ultimate, so if you are looking for a little more out of your system, it could cost as little as $60. I bought the Hauppauge Win-TV PVR 150, $75 with shipping off NewEgg.
The setup process was so easy, that this post is more a demo than a tutorial. "The next step" is always obvious.
The first thing I did was install the card in my computer. That was just like installing any other PCI card. Then, of course, I hooked the card up to a standard co-axial cable so that it could have a signal to work with.
I’m going to describe the proceeding steps, but honestly the next step is always apparent.
I’d say the whole process took under 30 minutes, though I can’t be sure because I didn’t do it all at the same time. Features I can now use include pausing live TV, rewinding live TV, easily skipping past commercials, using the guide, schedule recording single episodes or whole seasons, watching TV recordings that are currently recording, burning recordings to DVD, copying the recording files directly to my laptop, and syncing recordings with my Zune. Best of all, like always I can bring this whole experience down to my TV through my Xbox. All of that is on top of the Media Center functionality that I could already use!